Oren J Mechanic, M.D., MBA, M.P.H., director of telehealth and medical director at Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, is one of the 10 up-and-coming healthcare leaders featured in the annual Managed Healthcare Executive feature.
Oren J Mechanic, M.D., MBA, M.P.H.
I grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a small college town that lives and breathes Carolina basketball. My ambitions and love for my hometown carried me through eight years at the University of North Carolina for both my bachelor’s and medical degrees. I earned an M.P.H. at Dartmouth and went on to train at Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine Residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), where I completed a fellowship in health policy and management. I practiced clinically at BIDMC and served as core faculty member for the clinical skills assessment course at Harvard Medical School.
I currently serve as the director of telehealth at Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians, an organization focused on the innovative development and implementation of homegrown telehealth that has provided more than 500,000 virtual visits since COVID-19 began.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in healthcare?
During college, I was an overnight unit clerk at a local emergency department. Clinical care quickly became a passion, and I yearned to be at the bedside caring for anyone who walked into the emergency room. That desire eventually became a reality during medical school. There is nothing more rewarding than providing medical care to a patient at the bedside.
The inner workings of the healthcare system were also eye-opening. From pre-authorization forms to EHRs (electronic health records), healthcare operations seemed cumbersome. I wanted to gain a better understanding of the aspects of care that were rarely addressed in medical school. As such, I pursued an M.P.H. and an MBA and gained perspective on everything from research methodology and quality improvement models to revenue cycle and compliance.
Ultimately, my passion in healthcare is to provide exceptional care and experiences to patients; being an operational director and physician has afforded me that opportunity.
Which career accomplishment are you proudest of and why?
I am proud of our organization’s success in providing access to innovative care for our patients during the pandemic. We systematically engaged stakeholders, including clinicians, patients, families and interpreters, to launch a novel virtual visit platform, all while tracking its outcomes, equity, safety and workflows. It was a daunting task, given the short amount of time we had. But with foresight and preparation, a few telehealth visits quickly grew to nearly 600,000. The innovation continues as we explore novel ways to deliver care, such as remote patient monitoring, artificial intelligence and asynchronous medicine.
What is the most challenging part of your current position?
Telehealth has been a beacon for access to care for patients. Although it has seen significant success, I am concerned that the continuously changing landscape in parity and regulations may deter some of our nation’s advancements in virtual careOurclinicians, hospital systems and patients have embraced telehealth and are working to ensure that it remains of paramount importance to our organization.
What is your organization doing to address healthcare equity?
One of our institutional initiatives is to reduce disparities in care. Telehealth has been an opportunity to improve access. In support of our primary care and geriatric clinic, for example, we implemented a patient navigator program to reach out to patients who have not had successful video visits. Our program has identified thousands of patients and onboarded them to the platform prior to their appointments, thereby increasing video visits, reducing clinician time spent on tech troubleshooting, reducing missed appointments and increasing access to care, particularly for vulnerable and underserved patients.
If you could change one thing in U.S. healthcare, what would it be?
Value-based healthcare should always be at the forefront of our minds for our patients’ well-being. One key to improving value is better cost transparency. The world of drug costs, insurance and reimbursement is unclear to most patients and clinicians, making it difficult for many of us to make truly informed medical decisions and having downstream effects on rising health costs and payer premiums.
How do you avoid burnout?
For me, balance is struck by identifying my pillars of fulfillment. My daughter is the apple of my eye, and spending time with her and my wife brings me a lot of joy. Clinical medicine is also very meaningful to me, especially if I can provide a treatment modality, diagnosis, and reassurance and comfort to a patient. Teaching and training the next generation of physician is also very rewarding.